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Gratitude Jars: Ideas for Counting Your Blessings as You Age

Posted by Daystar Retirement Village on Nov 3, 2020 9:09:00 AM

Cab·in Fe·ver noun

Irritability, lethargy, low moods, and similar symptoms resulting from long confinement or isolation indoors during the winter. When the weather turns cold in these winter months, many people often find themselves experiencing a 'grey' feeling. Others find this time ample for reflection.

Put all of that energy to good use and consider creating a place to record what you’re thankful for on a daily basis. 

Using Gratitude Jars to Count Your Blessings (1)Not only could the practice bring a way to lift your spirits or supply uplifting stories to share with your neighbors at Daystar, but research suggests that it could also increase your energy levels (aka fighting off Cabin Fever!)

Robert Emmons, author of “Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier” (2007), says people who view life as a gift and consciously acquire an “attitude of gratitude” experience improved emotional and physical health. Emmons has been researching gratitude at the University of California, Davis, for nearly 20 years, and says additional benefits of practicing gratitude include increased energy and an improved ability to deal with tragedy and crisis.

 

At Gratitudepower, Emmons is quoted as saying,  “Gratitude enriches human life. It elevates, energizes, inspires and transforms. People are moved, opened and humbled through expressions of gratitude.” 

Emmons also participated in research at Harvard Medical School, which found that, "gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships."

Gratitude research is fueling a surge in the popularity of so-called gratitude journals, but not everyone enjoys the discipline that a daily writing practice requires. 

If you want to become more grateful but can’t commit to a gratitude journal, why not try a gratitude jar?

 

Tips for Creating Your Own Gratitude Jar

Whenever you notice something, or someone, or someone doing something, that makes you grateful, write it down—at that moment—on a scrap of paper. Make sure you date your observation. 

These tips are based on advice from Emmons here: 

1. Don’t just 'go through the motions'.

Be intentional in focusing on the gifts in your life. From big gifts such as family, friends, your community, to less-obvious gifts like the food you ate that day, or the puppy you saw walking by your window.

2. Go for depth rather than breadth.

Describe the experience that inspired your gratefulness, rather than listing a name or an event. When you saw that puppy walking by your window, record how it made you feel: happy, youthful, curious? These positive descriptive words may trigger other positive memories and bring a smile to your face when you dip into your jar in the future.

3. Get personal.

Focus on people rather than material things. Anything, from fresh sheets to a clean bill of health might spark feelings of gratitude, but Emmons’ research suggests that focusing on people whom you appreciate is particularly beneficial.

4. Savor surprises.

Unexpected gifts tend to elicit stronger feelings of gratitude, so pay attention to them. From a fellow community member remembering your birthday, to letters or cards from your family members, or even your favorite muffin appearing unexpectedly at breakfast, each day is full of pleasant surprises. Focus on the good!

5. Write in moderation. Don’t over-do it.

This should become a healthy habit, not a chore, so find what’s right for you. Keep it fun, light-hearted, and an activity that you can look forward to completing each day or night. You don't need to write an essay about what you are thankful for, but just enough so that you can look back during more difficult times and remember the happiness and gratitude you felt in that moment.

 

Benefits of Creating a Gratitude Jar

Your gratitude jar can be as simple or elaborate as you want it to be. As others in your family see the gratitude jar filling up, don’t be surprised if they decide to join in- in fact- use your gratitude jar as a way to connect with your family! Suggest they write something down when you are with them. Make it a fun activity to participate in together.

Dipping into the jar at the end of a hard day is a great way to remind yourself that “this too shall pass” and there is always something to be grateful for. On those days where you find yourself only focusing on the 'doom and gloom' (we're all guilty!), look to your jar and it's contents to take a pleasant trip down memory lane.

If you need more motivation, decorate your gratitude jar with stickers, markers, or other fun things that bring a smile to your face when you look at it. Another idea is to put your favorite quote about gratitude on the jar.

Here are a few inspirational quotes to get you started:

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” - Voltaire

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom." - Marcel Proust

"We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures." - Thornton Wilder

 

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